Making a success of expat life

Published:  5 Dec at 6 PM
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Tagged: Moving, Visas, USA, UK, Jobs, England
Leaving your home country to become an expat isn’t just about shipping yourself, your goods and your family to a new country, nor is it just about jobs and visas. Moving overseas, whether for retirement, career advancement or simply a much-needed lifestyle change take months of research and planning, but the story doesn’t end once you’ve boarded the plane.

Even if you’ve successfully ticked all the practical boxes, you may not have realised the subtle adjustments necessary to get through your first few months in a strange environment. Living in a foreign country involves absorbing and getting used to a totally different culture and the new attitudes this demands from expat arrivals.

It’s said that language defines and develops the culture of the country in which it’s spoken, so attempting to at least get the basics of the local lingo will help in understanding the everyday cultural unfamiliarity you’ll be exposed to. Becoming bilingual takes time, but a head start before you arrive will pay dividends.

Being open to cultural changes is all-important, as the laid-back atmosphere in the USA and UK isn’t found in many other expatriate destinations. ‘Have a nice day’ even if it’s said through gritted teeth, is a normal response in the West but in Asia, for example, even simple transactions can be verbally complicated. Learning the necessary phrases doesn’t take much time, but is one easy way to win you friends and colleagues.

Getting used to more time alone is one of the most difficult adjustments for expats whose family and friends are thousands of miles away, and immersing yourself in the local expat pub culture isn’t always the best answer. Expat communities exist all across the planet and usually include outside activities and support groups happy to help you make new friends.

More free time doesn’t have to mean more alone time, and being open to new experiences helps ward off stress-related depression. Moving house in your own country is considered extremely stressful, but the major lifetime event of moving overseas has its own specific stresses. The best defence against losing it totally is to keep your sense of humour intact whilst believing that, one day soon, you’ll begin to truly love the exciting adventures of life in your new country.
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